Greenwich is one of the places where smart London overlaps workaday London.
Amidst the grand buildings of the Old Royal Naval College and the National Maritime Museum and the splendid restoration of the Cutty Sark are down-to-earth enjoyments such as the covered Greenwich Market and the celebrated Goddard’s Pie & Mash Shop [http://www.goddardsatgreenwich.co.uk].
Over the river at Island Gardens is the stunning view of Greenwich that Canaletto painted in the middle of the eighteenth century, largely unchanged.
The best way to reach Island Gardens from the Cutty Sark is by a mundane piece of municipal engineering, the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, designed for the London County Council, shortly after Greenwich became part of London rather than Kent, by Sir Alexander Binnie (1839-1917).
It’s one of the monuments to the work of the energetic Labour Mayor of Poplar, subsequently MP for Woolwich, Will Crooks (1852-1921), whose campaigns to benefit working people in the East End included the park at Island Gardens (1895), the construction of the Blackwall road tunnel (1897) and the Greenwich (1902) and Woolwich (1912) foot tunnels.
The surface markers of this unobtrusive piece of engineering are the two elegant brick, glass-domed entrance buildings.
Because it’s a public highway, the Greenwich foot tunnel is open twenty-four hours a day, though the lifts don’t operate at times of low demand. (Sometimes the whole tunnel is closed for maintenance, and pedestrians are recommended to use the Docklands Light Railway instead.)
The tunnel is less trouble than hopping across on the Docklands Light Railway – and it’s free. The tunnel is worth the walk: at the north end, consider the section of reinforced lining that resulted from bomb damage in the Second World War.